It's hard enough trying to find your way in the world as a young person, it's even harder when your identity is caught between cultures and religions.

A new On Demand series, Edgewalkers follows a group of young African and Middle Eastern rappers from Mt Roskill as they pursue their dreams of becoming hip-hop stars.

Edgewalking references the delicate line they all walk between their Muslim beliefs and family expectations, and their hip-hop dreams.

The group, led by Mahad Yusuf, Mazen Tahir and Jibriil Ahmed, call themselves Blessed Mvmnt - a collection of seven artists, backed by "a whole community".


Don't worry if you've never heard of them, they haven't quite made it yet. That's the point.

The doco series' Scottish director Alexis Smith says the idea was to follow these three artists as they try to break through, to see what it takes to make it in New Zealand's hip-hop culture.

"It's showing this unseen subculture - it's not just the music, they have this refugee background and this conflict within them. They want to make their parents proud and they want to succeed in the mainstream but those things clash.

"New Zealand is a very multicultural country so I think that will really resonate with a lot of people."

Blessed Mvmnt's founder, Mahad Yusuf sums it up: "We've had enough of misconceptions and prejudices. We just want people to understand."

Aged between 21 and 23, these artists are simply trying to find their way in the world but it's not easy.

As Muslims, their passion is "looked down on" by their faith - "being open about it is not the way to do it - it's a contradiction with our faith. You can't be Muslim and rapping".

Still they say, "We're trying to find our faith for ourselves, not to be given our faith and told what our faith is". But they also add, "We just don't want to disappoint our parents."


So why persevere with music?

Growing up in New Zealand in the 2000s, the only role models they could see who looked like them were African-American rappers on television.

So as if their African and Middle Eastern heritages and their Kiwi upbringing weren't enough, they also adopted American hip-hop culture.

"Coming here from Somalia as a refugee, not knowing who I am … we saw all those African-American entertainers growing up and they helped us through a lot.

"We won't say we've been through as much as them, we won't say our struggles are the same as theirs, but we're going through the same culture shock, identity crisis, lack of self esteem. So seeing people like that and how they channelled their ideas, it helped," says Yusuf.

"When you come from a refugee background ... where there's no hope, that art becomes your hope - music has been something for us that's given us a feeling in New Zealand that allows us to be like, 'Yo, we're moving forward.'"



Who: Blessed Mvmnt

What: New documentary series Edgewalkers

Where: Available on TVNZ OnDemand from today

Also: Catch Blessed Mvmnt live at 145 Karangahape Road tomorrow night